The week that was ... em­bar­rass­ing

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker Colum­nist Kath­leen Parker’s email ad­dress is kath­leen­parker@ wash­post.com.

Amer­ica has had bet­ter weeks than the one just past. Only days away from the 15th an­niver­sary of the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks, the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates con­vened for what was dubbed the “Com­man­derin-Chief Fo­rum,” spon­sored by NBC News and hosted by “Where in the world is Matt Lauer?” In­deed. And then there was the Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date, Gary John­son, whose space­ship ap­par­ently had just landed in the mid­dle of Earth’s 2016. Ap­pear­ing Thurs­day on “Morn­ing Joe,” he re­sponded to Mike Bar­ni­cle’s ques­tion about Aleppo with, “And what is Aleppo?” Bar­ni­cle might as well have said it was an Ital­ian cof­feemaker and moved on.

At the fo­rum, we learned that Lauer ap­par­ently just got wind that Clin­ton used a pri­vate email server be­cause he de­voted fully one-third of her al­lot­ted time to ques­tions about the email, which has been in­ves­ti­gated ex­haus­tively, in­clud­ing by the FBI, for about two years. Oth­er­wise, we learned that Clin­ton’s top coun­tert­er­ror­ism goal is to de­feat the Is­lamic State, which failed to awaken any of the thou­sands of peo­ple who re­quested an in­duced coma un­til after Nov. 8.

From Trump we learned that he built a great com­pany, which was news to us, and that he has a plan for de­feat­ing the Is­lamic State but he’s not about to tell any­one be­cause he might win the elec­tion and then the ter­ror­ists would know that he in­tends to ask his top gen­er­als for a plan.

We also learned, be­cause we’ve never heard this be­fore, that the U.S.-led Iraq in­va­sion was a mis­take that Clin­ton once fa­vored and that Trump did not, ex­cept that he did. But who, pray tell, ever cared what Trump the New York real es­tate de­vel­oper thought about our mil­i­tary plans for Iraq? Why not just ask Joe the door­man at 30 E. 76th Street? Or the cashier at Madi­son Av­enue’s 3 Guys Restau­rant?

To­day, let’s face it, ev­ery­body’s against it after they were for it.

Clin­ton seems to have aban­doned even her qual­i­fy­ing trope for vot­ing for the Iraq in­va­sion -- based on the in­tel­li­gence we had at the time. At the fo­rum, ris­ing from her seat, she sim­ply and solemnly in­toned that it “was a mis­take.”

Sim­i­larly cu­ri­ous was Trump’s re­sponse out­lin­ing his qual­i­fi­ca­tions to com­mand the mil­i­tary: “I’ve built a great com­pany.” For real? He missed an ob­vi­ous open­ing to say some­thing thought­ful and orig­i­nal that high­lights what he has over his op­po­nent -- a record of deal­mak­ing and ne­go­ti­a­tion. He had a chance to cre­ate a new nar­ra­tive: If war is a fail­ure of diplo­macy, then Trump could say he’s uniquely qual­i­fied to use his tal­ents to end all wars.

This isn’t nec­es­sar­ily so, but it sure beats his usual cam­paign Big Talk about nukes and na­tion­al­is­tic jin­go­ism. In­stead, he es­sen­tially fi­nessed the fo­rum by say­ing so lit­tle of sub­stance that no one’s the wiser and his sup­port­ers can con­tinue to in­vent what­ever fan­tasy nar­ra­tive gets them through the night. In­clud­ing, it would seem, that it’s OK for the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee to blow kisses at Vladimir Putin, whom Mitt Rom­ney long ago, and to much eye-rolling, iden­ti­fied as our great­est geopo­lit­i­cal foe.

Not to Trump, who de­clared Wed­nes­day that Putin is a far bet­ter leader for Rus­sia than Barack Obama has been for the U.S. Never mind that Putin -- for­mer KGB of­fi­cer, ag­gres­sor, op­pres­sor, au­to­crat and, yes, dic­ta­tor -- leads in part by en­sur­ing that his op­po­nents cease breath­ing. Is this re­ally Trump’s idea of lead­er­ship? What could go wrong?

To dis­till the week: Clin­ton proved her­self knowl­edge­able, if foggy, and ex­pe­ri­enced in pub­lic af­fairs, as well as in ar­ti­fice and de­ceit. Trump is a sub­stance-free fig­ment of his own imag­i­na­tion, whose stated rea­son for run­ning for pres­i­dent is that he thinks he can win. Fi­nally, John­son is a for­mer gov­er­nor who stopped smok­ing pot to run for com­man­der in chief be­cause a crow landed on his shoul­der in the New Mex­ico desert and whis­pered in his ear that he should.

Miss­ing Rom­ney yet?

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